Botulism causes symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, and body paralysis. Consuming vacuum-packed food that has not undergone sterilization protocols is a risk factor for contracting the disease.
Do you know how to identify a food capable of transmitting botulism? Do you know the bacteria that is causing the disease? This microorganism can appear in any type of food, be it of animal or vegetable origin, but for its growth and proliferation it needs the lack of oxygen.
Symptoms such as double vision, nausea, vomiting, or weakness accompanied by generalized paralysis are indicative of an infection caused by the Clostridium botulinum bacteria. Canned foods are responsible for almost all of the outbreaks.
About Botulism Bacteria: Clostridium botulinum
Clostridium botulinum is a microorganism that is classified within the obligatory anaerobic bacteria, since in addition to not needing oxygen to carry out its metabolic processes, the existence of it kills them. It means that they are forced to live with low concentrations of the gas.
Clostridium botulinum has a characteristic rod shape, and another trait that distinguishes it from many bacteria is its ability to generate spores. This form of subsistence allows it to remain in a dormant state for long periods, and activate when the environment is adequate for its growth and proliferation.
The microorganism has a variable resistance to oxygen. However, various studies maintain and agree that it never grows in atmospheres containing more than 10% of the gas.
What makes it dangerous?
Botulinum toxin is a neurotoxin produced by this microorganism, which acts on the myoneural layer of the human body. Thus, it prevents the correct path of the nervous impulse. Its mechanism of action can be collected in three different phases:
The toxin's hydrogens chain binds to receptors on the neuron's presynaptic membrane. In other words, it concentrates its action on the human nervous system.
The toxin penetrates the neuron by an active mechanism similar to that of endocytosis. The neuronal cell admits the entrance absorbing the molecule.
Inside the neuron, the toxin interferes with the release of acetylcholine. As there is not enough of it, the union between the nerve and the muscle does not fulfill the task of indicating the contraction of the fibers when necessary or when an order is sent from the brain.
In conclusion, botulinum toxin, by preventing the release of acetylcholine from the neuron, makes it impossible to excite the muscles. The end result will be a lack of tone and contraction.
Types of botulism
The botulinum toxin will be, then, the cause of the pathology that we know as botulism. There are three basic and different types of Clostridium botulinum infection:
For food: especially through preserves, in which the bacteria grows thanks to the lack of oxygen, impregnating the toxin in the food.
In wounds: due to the production of the toxin in contaminated skin lesions.
Infantile: due to the ingestion of spores and the subsequent proliferation of bacteria in the infant's intestine. The group of greatest risk is that of children under 2 years of age, and this is one of the reasons why it is recommended not to incorporate foods such as honey until they are older.
Botulism is expressed in different ways, but its symptoms do not usually go unnoticed. Among these are the following:
Weakness with paralysis on both sides of the body.
Difficulty speaking and swallowing.
Nausea and vomiting
After all, the toxin prevents muscle movement, with all the systemic failures that this entails. Therefore, if not treated in time, the patient's prognosis can be fatal.
Diagnosis and treatment
To identify the bacteria, analyzes of the gastric and fecal contents of the patient are performed, and these look for the presence of the botulinum toxin. Once the poisoning has been identified, the primary treatment is based on immediate respiratory assistance.
Then, an antitoxin is applied to reverse the potentially life-threatening effects. The patient usually remains intubated for a variable time for the administration of liquids, in cases in which he does not recover the ability to swallow soon.
The prognosis is positive as long as the disease is quickly identified and life support is provided to the patient. The availability of the antitoxin and the trace of the cases that may arise among acquaintances, relatives, friends or neighbors who have consumed the same contaminated food is also essential.
What to remember about botulism?
Knowing the mechanisms of action of this bacterium and the symptoms of the disease is important, but the essential thing is to know how to prevent it. For this, various food control protocols have been established for canned foods.
By subjecting the packages to a temperature of 121 ° C for the established time, it should be enough to kill bacteria and spores. Botulism prevention depends, to a large extent, on the compliance of the food industry and home manufacturing.